Policymakers in Illinois are currently grappling with the best way to protect patients from harm caused by the potentially dangerous physicians providing them medical care. Of particular concerns are those doctors that have a history of sexual abuse convictions.
The Chicago Tribune reported yesterday on the debate surrounding the issue. As it currently stands, sex offenders face little to no discipline in the state related to their medical profession. Some convicted offenders are never disciplined at all, some receive temporary suspensions, but almost all eventually keep seeing patients.
Sex crimes are difficult to prosecute, meaning that many of these crimes are actually punished under the label “misdemeanor battery.” The lesser crime triggers a less severe disciplinary process in which little oversight is provided by an overburdened probation program. On top of that, this year Illinois suddenly stopped provided patients access to detailed historical information about the doctors providing them care-information like past criminal convictions and payments for medical malpractice. It is no surprise that the state’s medical lobby has led efforts to keep this information from patients.
However, to help get a hold of the problem, some lawmakers are seeking to tighten up laws around medical discipline. The changes include re-opening access to doctor profiles and making the penalty harsher for those doctors who commit sex crimes. Some states have already taken tough steps. For example, in California a law passed by the state legislature stripped the medical licenses from all physicians who have been convicted of a sex crime.
Whatever specific legislation is crafted, our Illinois malpractice lawyers believe that holding medical professionals responsible for their conduct is a necessary step. Our decades of experience in the area of medical malpractice have made clear that far too many doctors and medical professionals cause extreme injury, pain, suffering, and death to far too many patients. The problems continue unabated; strong steps are needed to quell the tide.
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